Monday, July 23, 2007

Talkin' Blues, cont'd

In the comments section of my post on spoken-word hits, the ever-resourceful Mark Lerner - who, I have it on good authority, has spoken words himself ever since he was a wee tot - points out this post from a blog almost as good as OPC concerning patriotic spoken-word singles. For those of you who are too "busy" to read the other post, it describes how the same piece of recitative climbed up the charts twice in 1974.

Our story begins on June 5, 1973, when a Toronto broadcaster named Gordon Sinclair delivered a radio commentary talking about how the Americans had come to the aid of countries around the world, but no one ever thought to help the Americans:

When distant cities are hit by earthquakes, it is the United States that hurries into help... Managua Nicaragua is one of the most recent examples. So far this spring, 59 American communities have been flattened by tornadoes. Nobody has helped.

The Marshall Plan .. the Truman Policy .. all pumped billions upon billions of dollars into discouraged countries. Now, newspapers in those countries are writing about the decadent war-mongering Americans.

I'd like to see one of those countries that is gloating over the erosion of the United States dollar build its own airplanes.

The piece became well-known in this country even before it was released as a single, and burst into the Top Forty in January of 1974, making Sinclair, who was then 73, the oldest person to ever have a Top Forty hit. But simultaneous to Sinclair's take, a newscaster for a Detroit TV station recorded his own version of the same text, backed by a recording of "America the Beautiful," making "The Americans" the "One Tin Soldier" of spoken-word records. MacGregor's cover put the schwap to Old Man Sinclair's, going all the way to Number Four.

So was that the last spoklen-word hit? I think it was. I've seen reports that "The Americans" found new popularity after 9/11, but I don't think it actually charted. So unless you would count a novelty like Dickie Goodman's "Mr. Jaws," from 1975, which had spoken-word elements, I think the spoken-word hit breathed its last in 1974.

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